Paper palms needed this year
As Pope Benedict releases his message for Lent, NSW parishes are requesting people to bring their own palms to this year's Palm Sunday services after the drought drastically cut the supply of fronds.
The Catholic Weekly reports that a phone call from one parish - St Aloysius, Cronulla - advising that parishioners this year would have to bring their own palms for Palm Sunday, set off a flurry of such reports extending from the Shoalhaven to Newcastle along the NSW coast.
Cronulla parish priest Fr Thomas Kurunthanam said he had notified parishioners through the parish bulletin.
"The firm who usually deliver can't do so and we're asking people who might have palms growing at home to bring us in fronds closer to Palm Sunday and we'll cut them up and distribute them ourselves," he said.
"Otherwise people should bring their own.
"Fortunately, at least Cronulla is blessed with reasonably good rain, but it's a sharp reminder of how serious the situation is in the rest of the state," Fr Kurunthanam said
His supplier, Mark Nixon of Nixon Palms, usually caters for about 250 churches each Easter - but not this year.
"Things are pretty bad," Mr Nixon said. "It's not worth doing this year because of the drought and access problems and I don't want to be selective, supplying some churches and not others.
The scale of the shortage became clear when distressed parishes sought help from neighbouring dioceses, for instance Wollongong and Parramatta, only to discover the situation was much the same there.
St Patrick's Sutherland parish secretary Gayle Anderson said families in the parish had also been asked to bring their own palms or olive branch cuttings or both.
"It's a very telling lesson for us as to just how bad the drought is and the plight of the people in the bush," she said. "We are the custodians of the land, but it's tough for those people who also have to make a living off it.
"It's also an up-close lesson for the children of the parish about the drought and about Holy Week, since we're suggesting to families, and schools, that the children can make 'palms' out of paper or cardboard.
"But as our parish priest points out, Jesus' followers that first Palm Sunday brought their own palms to line Christ's path into Jerusalem."
Bring your own palms - drought hits churches (Catholic Weekly, 18/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Aloysius Gonzaga Parish, Cronulla
Vinnies launches drought appeal for NSW farmers (CathNews, 19/1/07)
Christians unite in prayer for rain (CathNews, 16/11/06)
Climate change on our doorstep, says Caritas (CathNews, 10/10/06)
Palm Sunday pilgrims retrace Jesus' trip to Jerusalem (CathNews, 21/3/05)
Papal Message for Lent 2007
15 Feb 2007